Windows Server 2016: Navigating the Processor-to-Core Transition

By Joshua Osborne

Director of Client Services - Microsoft, NPI

December 20, 2016

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In October 2016, Microsoft changed its licensing for Windows Server 2016 from processor- to core-based. On the surface the transition is similar to when SQL moved to core-based licensing. Windows Server 2016 now has a core-to-processor conversion ratio of 8:1. This means that each processor converts to 8 cores in the new licensing model. Microsoft will require that a minimum of 8 cores are licensed per processor and 2 processors or 16 cores will be licensed per server.

Microsoft is granting or grandfathering any installations above the required minimum the same as they have done previously. Similar to conversions and changing of licensing models in the past, Microsoft requires some form of ‘proof’ such as a MAP Toolkit report to verify how many cores above 8 are currently deployed and then ‘grant or grandfather’ in those cores, while not requiring customers to buy the additional licenses. You can therefore renew SA only on all of your deployed cores.

It will be a bit tricky and potentially costly for two fundamental reasons. One, any deployments of processors of more than 8 cores will equate to additional costs moving forward since you are licensing the actual cores (instead of just processors). This is very similar to those customers that went through the SQL conversion and had higher than the minimum cores.

Two, now Microsoft is limiting Windows Server Standard to two VMs, which is not different than it is today – with the exception that Microsoft longer allows ‘stacking.’ Stacking Windows Server Standard allowed a customer to purchase additional licenses to gain the ability to run two more VMs for each license. Now, Microsoft will still allow a stacking of sorts, but you have to license all of the cores for every two more VMs. This will be more costly for core-dense customers.

The major takeaway from all of this is that if you have processors with more than 8 cores, your costs will go up relative to how many more cores you have. Doing an inventory early is a great way to be prepared for the transition, and will enable you to make informed optimization decisions before Microsoft tries to come in and ‘help’ you with the process.